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The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Sustainable Urban Development is a part-time programme that provides outstanding students an opportunity to pursue in-depth and rigorous research about the pressing challenges of urban sustainability and the processes of environmental, economic, and social development in urban environments around the world.
Students admitted to the programme are usually motivated to undertake detailed research in preparation for an academic career and other research-intensive occupations; to have a substantial impact on future policy-making processes; or to pursue and/or advance their professional career at organizations and institutions operating in the field of sustainable urban development. The course provides the student with support and an intellectual environment
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'Prior to enrolling in the DPhil programme, I was involved in several positions that involved working in both government-led and government-commissioned urban development programmes. One notable position, as the head of the planning and design department at the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, had me thrown into a plethora of situations where I got to observe and participate in decision-making alongside bureaucrats of all levels of seniority. Hugely intrigued by the need to study and closely scrutinize policymaking in Jordan, I revisited my long-held dream of continuing doctoral education. In my search of a program that could enable me to continue my professional work while studying, I found the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development to be the right home.
'While all pieces fell into place, from developing an application proposal to passing through the daunting interview, I soon matriculated into the program and returned to student life. From the onset of the programme, the challenging part was to reconcile and adjust my way of thinking which is attuned to the practical world and tailor it to academic thought, with its completely different research sensibilities.
'While a DPhil’s best reward is served at the end, there are various milestone-related rewards along the way, such as awards and studentships. I am lucky to have been selected as a recipient of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Foundation studentship for 2019. While the financial value is extremely appreciated, it is also morally uplifting to know that my research is encouraged by the academic community. Especially in the early stages, it can be hard to tell if the research is heading in the right direction when drenched in the knowledge-acquiring process of the literature review!
'My word of advice for anyone considering applying for this program is being aware that while the programme is administered in a part-time fashion and enables individuals to continue working while they study, such flexibility has another side to it. The professors assume that students are old and responsible enough to manage their own schedules and balance their commitments. The University resources are rich but one needs to navigate through them properly and thus carve out large amounts of time for the doctorate. I personally love the Oxford format and richness of content provided through the program because it is pretty much unique.'
Before I enrolled, I was, and am still, based in the Program on Urban Studies at Stanford University where I direct our experiential learning initiatives for students to engage in real-world urban issues through coursework and fellowships. I also co-founded and lead the Human Cities Initiative. I previously worked as a senior urban planner with a focus on transportation and land use planning.
'Research and teaching have always gone hand in hand for me. Having worked in underserved communities that historically lacked access to the planning process or a seat at the decision-making table, I started my career in urban planning with a motivation to develop tools and capacities for non-planners to shape their communities. I became interested in contested frameworks of sustainability, which led me to the DPhil to explore these questions within a scholarly context.
'The Clarendon Scholarship has made it possible for me to pursue the DPhil at Oxford. I am grateful for this opportunity, which not only offers financial support to pursue my research but a chance to be part of a community of scholars and to meet students from across the university in different departments. I love learning from others from different disciplines and how they approach their work, which is endlessly fascinating for me and can lead to exciting ways of thinking about my work.
My recommendation for someone considering undertaking the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development is to have a strong desire to do research and a set of intellectual questions that you hope to answer. Before applying, you should have a clear rationale for why you want to pursue the DPhil. After that, you will need to undergo the application process where you provide a detailed research proposal. There is also an interview, where in my situation, I discussed my potential research with three faculty members and was encouraged to think critically and thoughtfully about my proposal. I found this to be worthwhile and fun, but it is essential to consider both what you hope to get out of the process of undertaking the DPhil, as well as the potential outcomes of your research.
I am most looking forward to engaging with Oxford faculty, challenging myself intellectually, and producing a high-quality thesis. As issues of urbanization and sustainability drive some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, I look forward to continuing this research after the DPhil in my career.
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